I’m regularly infuriated by ignorant citations of this incident; as I recall, some salient features:
- McDonalds had a company-wide policy of producing its coffee at a temperature far too hot for human contact. As with everything that happens in a McDonalds, this resulted from carefully studied industrial design, and in some way that I can’t recall this process resulted in savings for McDonalds on each cup of coffee they sold.
- The plaintiff’s lawyers made good use of McDonalds’s having studied this question - I think they found documented evidence McDonalds had considered and then disregarded the safety issue.
- The jury responded not only to the woman’s injuries but also sought to punish McDonalds by going after the savings they had sought to realize state-wide through their policy of serving dangerously hot liquids. California is a large state, and the jury had no way to address this latter goal except by awarding the money to the plaintiff.